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Contributed: pre-2006


Contributed by Ken Tessendorff

This very small, but very handy book contains an inventory of all the Great Registers of California that are available on microfilm at the California State Library. It has a county by county listing that shows the individual years available for all 58 counties plus Klamath which no longer exists. Before 1900 there are about 10 to 20 different years available for each county in the state. In most cases, the earliest year is 1867. After 1900, they are shown only as a group of so many rolls from 1900-1944.

The book also contains a section with short histories of each county. About one paragraph is devoted to each one. It also has a section listing the names of major cities and towns and the counties in which they are located.

By using this book, a researcher should be able to pick a specific year close to the one he wants or order a whole series of film rolls and check them all. The last time I ordered film from the California State Library, my local librarian told me that I was allowed 12 rolls per order. You should check with your local librarian about the current number available.

The information contained in the Great Registers varied from year to year, but in the latter part of the 19th century, they typically had some or all of this information:

  • Name
  • Occupation
  • Age
  • Height
  • Complexion
  • Color of Eyes
  • Color of Hair
  • Visible marks or scars
  • Country of Nativity
  • Local residence
  • Naturalized-date, place & court
  • Date of Registration
  • Post office address
  • Able to read?
  • Able to write?
  • Able to mark ballot
  • Nature of disability
This is an excellent source for determining where your ancestors Naturalization Papers might be available.

Some California libraries that have the above item:

  • Berkeley, University of California Berkeley Bancroft Library, pf F859 .W53 1987
  • Sacramento, California State Library, JK8791 .W5 1987 California Non Circ